Twitter agrees to close accounts in Turkey

16 Apr 2014

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Image via igor kisselev/Shutterstock

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After weeks of conflict over audio recordings leaked in tweets, Twitter has agreed to shut down selected accounts on the social network as requested by the Turkish government.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a ban of Twitter in early March in reaction to tweets containing wiretapped recordings that allegedly exposed a corruption scandal.

The site was blocked for two weeks until the Ankara administrative court stepped in and put a stop to it. In the meantime, Turkish Twitter users had found workarounds to escape the block and Twitter itself supported them by tweeting instructions on how to keep tweeting via SMS.

“The millions of people in Turkey who turn to Twitter to make their voices heard are being kept from doing just that,” said Twitter’s general counsel Vijaya Gadde while the block was still in place.

At the time of the block, Twitter received a court order to remove an account accusing a former minister of corruption. Twitter contested the order but, based on the public prosecutor’s request regarding an individual’s safety, blocked the account and several tweets in Turkey while leaving this content visible to users elsewhere in the world.

Nu Wexler from Twitter’s public policy communications department reached out to let us know that the accounts being silenced at the Turkish government’s request will be blocked using this Country Withheld Content tool, meaning that they are still visible on the network outside of Turkey, and that the takedown request has been posted on Chilling Effects. Wexler also clarified that the accounts are not connected to the Turkish PM’s earlier block of the social network.

Establishing communication

In direct talks between representatives from the prime minister’s office; the Ministry of Transport, Maritime and Communication; telecoms authorities and a delegation from Twitter led by head of global public policy Colin Crowell, Turkish officials also requested that Twitter open an office in Turkey and pay tax on its earnings.

On Tuesday, Turkey’s Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek announced that all social media companies operating there would be required to open a domestic office. “Many social media firms, including Twitter, are reaping unfair profits from Turkey and they aren’t paying taxes due on those gains. We see this as a serious problem,” he said.

According to Reuters, the decision to establish a system for co-operation between Twitter and the Turkish government was established on Monday and, while Twitter will not immediately establish an office there, the necessary communication channels will be opened up.

Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reports that Twitter will establish a desk covering the Middle East and North Africa, giving Turkish officials a contact point for future issues. A mutual communications centre will also reportedly be established and Twitter Dublin’s Sinead McSweeney, director of public policy for Europe, will be Turkey’s addressee.

It is reported that Twitter implemented three Turkish court rulings and will tackle several other decisions within the coming week.

UPDATED 16 April 2014, 16:08: This article has been updated to include information provided by Nu Wexler and to clarify information on the accounts being blocked by Twitter in Turkey.

No more tweeting image by igor kisselev via Shutterstock

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Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com